Although the Democratic National Committee says it randomly chose which Democratic presidential candidates would go on which days for the first debate, there’s no question that Thursday, June 27 is stacked with heavyweights.
If there’s a presumptive frontrunner, based on polls, it’s former Vice President Joe Biden, and, arguably, Bernie Sanders, whom a lot of people felt was robbed by the DNC the last time around. Both Biden and Sanders are in the Thursday debate lineup together, although there are some more unusual candidates in the mix too. Like Andrew Yang. And Marianne Williamson. (Who do you think won the debate on Wednesday? Vote in Heavy’s poll. Here’s our breakdown of winners and losers from day 1 of the debate.)
However, there was a little more to it than purely random chance. “The candidates were randomly selected from two boxes, with the candidates who had earned an average of 2 percent support in polls in one box, and the remainder in another box,” according to CBS News.
The Democratic primary field is so large that it was split into two days, Wednesday and Thursday, with 10 candidates each appearing on stage at a time. Some candidates still didn’t make the cut.
First of all, you can watch the debate from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. eastern time on June 27, 2019 on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo.
How else to watch the first Democratic debate? “The debate will stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms,” NBC News announced. “NBC News will also stream the debates live and in full on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.” You can find NBC News’ YouTube channel here.
The Democratic National Committee decided which candidates would take the stage on which day through random drawing. However, the DNC did establish criteria beforehand to determine which candidates could make the stage at all.
First, here is the Democratic debate lineup and list by day:
Thursday, June 27, 2019: Marianne Williamson, John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet and Eric Swalwell.
Candidates who debated on Wednesday, June 26, 2019: Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee and John Delaney.
How did the DNC decide who would make the stage at all? Essentially, the party used two main benchmarks for that decision.
Here’s what you need to know:
The DNC Set Two Different Benchmarks to Qualify for the Democratic Debate
According to Politico, the Democratic National Committee set two different thresholds for qualifying for the Democratic debate, and candidates had until June 12 to cross one of them or they didn’t make the stage. Some candidates fell by the wayside, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Bullock’s campaign was upset by the DNC’s rules, calling them “arbitrary,” according to Politico.
According to Politico, these are the tests that each candidate had to meet to qualify:
1. “Earning 1 percent in three polls approved by the DNC.” The Atlantic defined this rule as “three separate national or early-state polls.” OR:
2. “Receiving donations from 65,000 people, with 200 in 20 different states.”
Thirteen candidates hit both of those benchmarks, but a candidate only needed to meet one or the other to qualify. Those who met both benchmarks are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker, Marianne Williamson, Jay Inslee, and Amy Klobuchar.
Some candidates have complained that they’re being pressured to pay money unnecessarily and unwisely to drive up their donor counts. “If you want to be president of the United States, you have to develop a proficiency at grassroots fundraising. That’s the only way we win,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said to The Atlantic. The DNC is planning to hold about a dozen debates, according to the Atlantic.
FiveThirtyEight pointed out that the threshold to enter the debate is actually pretty low, which is likely a reflection of criticism that the DNC weathered in the 2016 election, especially from Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who felt the DNC had shaped the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.